CANBERRA, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Chinese tourists have helped drive up Australia's visitor expenditure figures, while the number of Chinese who visited Australia grew almost 20 percent to more than 1.1 million in 2016, according to figures released by the federal government on Wednesday.
The International Visitors Survey (IVS) showed foreign tourists spent a record 39.1 billion Australian dollars (29.6 billion U.S. dollars) throughout the year ending December 2016, a 7 percent rise on the previous year, with Chinese visitors accounting for almost a quarter of that figure.
Overall, the top five spenders in Australia were China, Britain, the United States, neighbor New Zealand, and Japan, contributing more than half (or 15.8 billion U.S. dollars) of the total visitor spend.
In a statement accompanying the IVS, Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said tourism was beginning to become one of Australian economy's most important assets, considering the rise of the middle class in Asian nations such as China.
"Spending by international visitors to Australia has now grown by more than 35 percent in the last three years - supporting Australian jobs and the broader Australian economy," Ciobo said on Wednesday.
Ciobo said visitor numbers and expenditure was up across the board, with "double digit growth" coming from 12 different nations, and added that the government would be doing more to harness an even greater share of the foreign tourist market in the future.
The number of backpackers visiting Australia grew by 8 percent during last year, Ciobo added.
"The Turnbull government is supporting further growth in the Australian tourism industry, including by: investing a record 485 million U.S. dollars in Tourism Australia to market Australia abroad; negotiating the world's best aviation access agreements; and introducing visitor visa improvements."